THE WORLD OF TRUMANS
None of us would have ever dreamt that he /she would be the Truman Burbank (The Truman Show, 1998) of someone else’s show. The truth of the matter is that there are millions of people who are being constantly monitored for their behaviour patterns and preferences. The observations can be either be direct or indirect, disguised or undisguised, structured or unstructured, human or mechanical etc. The role of observation in modern day marketing cannot be underestimated, in fact you will be surprised to know the kind of efforts and innovations companies are putting in in order to gain competitive advantage. Following are some of the innovative methods under observation
The Mystery Shopper/ Diner – This observation can be categorised as –Indirect ,Unstructured , Human, Archived . The term “Mystery Shopping” was coined in the 1940s by Wilmark , the first research firm to apply the concept beyond integrity applications. A mystery diner sits near to the actual customers and observes their dining experience as well as the service provided to them. Mystery shoppers /diners not only give valuable feedback regarding the service provided but also play a key role in inspecting and evaluating variety of activities including company operations, employee integrity , store merchandising and product quality.Today , over 100 companies belong to the Mystery Shopping Providers Association and the industry is estimated to be over 1.5 $ billion annually.
Trend Spotting – This observation can be categorised as –Indirect, Unstructured, Human, Archived. Extending the practise of observation beyong what is clearly or scientifically seen, some researchers have tried to catalog behaviours that might signat the beginning of important trends . This method is called trendspotting and has been under the scanner always because of the subjectivity and randomness of observations present in it. Denmark giant ad agency DDB Worldwide invites observers all over the world plus other targeted groups such as members of youth organizations , to submit thir observations to managers appointed as Signbankers. The signbankers update the corporate database on a regularly basis and it is properly segregated. To get an idea of the kind of observations that might be included , think of anything as random as time people spend at the metro station watcing an ad close to ticket counter , the importance of colours of billboards and their impact on sportschannel viewer.
Mobile Trackers for vehicles –This observation can be categorised as –Direct, Structured, Mechanical and as is. Electronic devices are designed so that they can pinpoint the location of any equipped vehicle through its Global Postioning System. These devices help companies keep track of important questions such as are drivers speeding , are device readings accurate, are drivers using vehicles during off hours etc. This data can also help fleet managers with their duty.
Neuromarketing – This observation can be categorised as –Indirect, Structured, Mechanical and archived .A high tech research methodology in which a technology called quantified electroencephalography (QEEG). Subjects wear light and portable EEG equipment that records brain activity, software displays activity levels in different arts of the brain. Hewlett Packard used the mentioned technique while developing advertisements for its digital photography products.
Scanner based Consumer Panel – This observation can be categorised as –Direct, Structured, Mechanical and As is .Each household is assigned a bar coded card, like frequent shopper card, which members present to clerk at the register. The household’s code number is coupled with the purchase information recorded by the scanner. In addition, background information about the household is obtained through answers to demographic and psychographic questions.
A number of ethical issues have been raised against the observation methods which target the privacy of the consumers. Disguised observations do not seek approval of the consumers tracked and go about collecting data whatever field it might belong to. A set of questions might help in deciding the dilemma that marketers face while collecting information – is the behaviour being observed commonly performed in public , is the behaviour being observed performed in anonymity and has the person agreed to be observed.